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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wall Street Journal Highlights How 86-Year-Old Badminton Fanatic Aced San Francisco

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 9:59 AM

The comedian Alexei Sayle used to say that "you can't fight city hall -- but you can take a crap on the steps and run away." Well, he was wrong. You can do both, and Ed Leong is living proof of it -- at least the fighting part.

An article appearing today in the Wall Street Journal recounts how the rail-thin, 86-year-old badminton aficionado did what virtually no other individual or city department has been able to do of late -- he fought the draconian cuts and actions the city has undertaken in response to its crippling budget deficit. And he won.

It all started in January, when, after years of playing badminton for free on city courts, Leong found he'd now be charged $4 for a 45-minute reservation -- while basketball and volleyball players on the very same court still played for free. Since perhaps nine out of every 10 badminton players in the city are Chinese, this was taken as an affront to the community. Leong circulated petitions, led City Hall sit-ins, and flooded Chinese-language newspapers and TV stations -- as well as Supervisor Carmen Chu's inbox.

Use of the city's badminton courts tumbled, spurring acting Recreation & Parks Director Jared Blumenfeld to scrap the fee and offer a compromise Leong accepted: an across-the-board $1 fee for badminton, volleyball, and basketball players

(While not on the same plane, it warrants mentioning that three different city supervisors spoke last month at a rally protesting looming layoffs for more than 70 Rec & Park employees, including scores of recreation directors. They were all laid off, as planned. Yet Leong the badminton man managed to cow City Hall).

As Leong put it himself in the Journal article (apparently with a straight face -- and why not?): "I'd suggest to the city that they think twice before taking on us badminton players again."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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